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Re: [xmca] Polls are closed: Manfred Holodynsk's article is choice

Hi Manfred,

Thank you for taking the time to write to XMCA. These discussions of articles are always more interesting and informative when the author can participate. I appreciate your clarification, but I would like to ask a question. You write:

On Mar 22, 2013, at 10:40 AM, "Holodynski, Manfred" <manfred.holodynski@uni-muenster.de> wrote:

> a) Take the example of the opening of the window. That's the behavior. What's the goal?
> b) Imagine the person is a leader and opens the window in order to greet his followers and to hold a speech. That's the goal. What is the activity?
> c) If one look at the circumstances one can derive that the speech is a part of a political activity in order to celebrate the election victory. 

Given your previous paragraphs I assume that you mean to say that opening the window is the operation, greeting the followers is the action, and giving a speech is the activity? Then, the motive of the activity (giving the speech) is to celebrate an election victory. The goal of the action (greeting the followers) is to greet the followers (?). And the conditions of the operation (opening the window) are that the window is closed. Do I have that correct? I still find the terminology a bit confusing.

Then you draw a distinction between the "publically assigned meaning" and the "personally felt sense of the situation." You contrast the possibility that the personally felt sense is pride and enthusiasm with the possibility that it is feeling burdened and overloaded. 

So, you offer us a description of the situation that rests of various theoretical concepts. I'd say that without doubt there's a metaphysics here, but there's no need to dwell on that point!

The point I would like to dwell on, however, is that I think questions can be raised about such a description, in particular about the way it seems to presuppose some kind of omniscient observer, who has access not only to publicly available facts (the identity of the party leader; the results of the voting), but also to what the election means to "the public" (won't there be a range of interpretations?) and to the "personal sense" of the agent.

In practice, as a researcher for example, one is never in this enviable position. Imagine I am standing in the room with the party leader. He fumbles to open the window and exclaims "Gott!" Now, I can understand that exclamation in a variety of ways. I can see it as frustration that the operation of opening the window has been frustrated by the local conditions. Or I can interpret it as irritation that the goal of greeting the followers has met with an obstacle. Or I can read it as anxiety that the motive of celebrating the victory is already not running smoothly.

Without access to the subjective feelings of the agent (and perhaps even then), it seems to me that each of these ways of framing the emotional exclamation is equally valid. Obviously they differ in the depth, or width, of the context, the macrostructure, that they take into account, but I it is not clear to me that this can be used as a criterion for choosing among them. The agent himself has, I would suggest, the same range of interpretive options available to him - that is, he will need to make sense of his own emotional exclamation, and he has available to him a variety of ways to do so. Surely that is one thing that we know about emotionality; that emotions are not transparent to us. We don't know immediately what the cause and objects of our own emotions are. 

In addition, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the "macrostructure" of the activity is not even the most inclusive way of framing an action (or in this case an emotional exclamation). One could equally well frame it in the context of a person's whole life, understood as an existential commitment. Or in terms of the system and structure of a political-economic formation - interpreting "Gott!", for example, as an expression of the contradictions of politics within contemporary neo-liberal democracy. 

In short, then, why is "the macrostructure of an activity" the embedding that should be preferred?

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